ARGUS Drone Comes to Life to Spy from 20,000 Feet
by Brandy Cross
Anyone who has played Halo knows the ARGUS drone, a flying drone ship equipped with spying technology to detect and sometimes destroy the enemy. Now, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) have perhaps unwittingly named their new spy drone after the Halo vehicle. The name Argus stems from Greek mythology and indicates a 100 eyed ‘all seeing’ god of war. With this in consideration, the name for the ARGUS drone is actually quite appropriate.
DARPA’s ARGUS Drone
Similar to the ARGUS drone from Halo, DARPA’s drone is a flying ship equipped with sensors and perhaps a rocket or two. Unlike the Halo drone, DARPA’s ARGUS is bigger, better, and far more accurate than the game version ever dreamed of being. The ARGUS drone is equipped with video sensors that have the capacity to record a 30 mile section of video at 20,000 feet with high definition quality sharp enough to allow the military to watch individual people walking on the ground. The recording works using nothing other than hundreds of ordinary phone sensors, and according to Yiannis Antoniades of BAE Systems (the British company that makes the ARGUS), it was cheaper to use the phone sensors than to design their own system.
The camera system uses 368 five-megapixel cameras (or relatively low quality cameras intended to be equipped on phones) but eventually has a total of 1.8 gigapixels.
ARGUS is Classified but Can be Seen on PBS
The ARGUS drone is currently classified and while rumors suggest that three of them will be sent to Afghanistan, the military is mostly keeping the entire system under wraps. However, non-classified portions of the drone can be seen on the PBS show ‘Nova’ which talks about drones. The ARGUS One, which is the version being equipped with the sensors, is a mid-altitude long endurance unmanned flight vehicle and actually has a range of advantages over the piloted aircraft being used today. For example, most of the aircraft in the air now are more than 20 years old and using technology developed during Vietnam. The ARGUS is more lightweight, features heavier than air fixed wing UAV’s, tethered aerostats and balloons (alternatives to low orbit satellites), and can stay aloft for up to two days. Importantly, the ARGUS One also does not require aircraft or hangars and can actually go from ‘in-box’ to launch in just a few hours.
Future of Unmanned Flight
The past few months have seen a range of new developments in the area of unmanned flight. From the new Blackhawk helicopter that can fly at low altitudes without a pilot, to the ARGUS one, militaries around the world are clearly focusing their attention towards unmanned aircraft. With the ability to fly almost anywhere, remain in flight for days, and avoid the risk of a pilot’s life, unmanned aircraft clearly have their advantages. However, experts, including military ones, suggest that nothing will ever replace the pure human intuition of a live pilot. Most if not all unmanned aircraft have the ability to include a person, even if that person doesn’t necessarily have to fly the plane.
Military technology is expanding at the same rapid rate as other technology including energy and cell phone technology. While many of the changes are designed to save human lives, others are designed to kill more easily, spy more efficiently, and even replace human interaction altogether. The ARGUS drone is a prime example of some of the future technology that will soon be commonplace but for most of us, it’s still hardly imaginable that something could spy on or capture a perfect image of someone on the street from 20,000 feet up. While most people would obviously be against the tech being used on them, the mere fact that the drone is so high makes it impossible to detect.